Houthis Target Tanker as They Also Involve Hamas in Red Sea Conflict

Red Sea shipping
EU has joined the effort with Operation Aspides to escort and defend ships in the Red Sea region (Aspides)

Published Mar 15, 2024 11:54 AM by The Maritime Executive


The situation in the Red Sea region remains complicated as the Houthis continue their attacks firing today at a tanker while reports are that they are now consulting with Hamas. According to a report from CNN, the fate of the car carrier Galaxy Leader and its multi-national crew is now in the hands of Hamas while the Houthi are vowing to further expand their region of attacks into the Indian Ocean to stop all shipping related to Israel.

In possibly the latest example of the Houthis using outdated information to target vessels, overnight the crude oil tanker Pacific 01 (105,900 dwt) registered in Panama reported an explosion while sailing in the Red Sea approximately 65 nautical miles west of Al Hudaydah, Yemen. Reports are that a second merchant ship saw a missile pass overhead.

The Houthis are calling the tanker “an Israeli ship,” likely because up until recently databases show it was managed since 2015 by Eastern Pacific Shipping of Singapore, controlled by Israeli shipping magnate Idan Ofer. However, current data shows the ship known as the Koro Sea transferred ownership and management last month to Pacific Ocean Energy Trans based in Vietnam and took on the new name Pacific 01.

Security services have warned of the dangers of these types of situations. Recent ownership transfers have also been linked to other targeting using outdated information.

Adding to the confusion, initial reports from the UK Maritime Trade Organizations and Ambrey said the tanker had been hit and sustained unspecified damage. UKMTO later clarified its report to say after a daylight inspection the master said they had not been hit nor sustained damage, and were proceeding with the AIS signal showing it is due to transit the Suez Canal.

Repeatedly saying their mission is to stop Israeli shipping or ships heading to Israel, the Houthi according to the CNN report are now in direct coordination with Hamas, the terrorist organization that Israel is targeting in Gaza after the October attack on Israeli citizens. 

The report says that the Houthis decided they have no direct claim to the Galaxy Leader, the car carrier linked to Israeli shipowner Abraham “Rami” Ungar and held since November by the Houthis in Yemen. CNN quotes a Houthi spokesperson saying the fate of the crew and the vessel is now controlled by Hamas. They are reported to be responsible for the decision of whether to release the crew.

The majority of the crew is Filipino and the Philippine Government has been trying to secure their release. The Philippines was recently successful with Iran to get the crew of the tanker St Nikolas released but with the Galaxy Leader, the Philippine Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Eduardo de Vega told CNN the indication is that the crew will be held until the hostilities in Gaza end.